Supreme Court of Tennessee Affirms Non-Economic Damages for Child's Car Accident Injuries -- Meals v. Ford Motor Co.
Recently, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated a $43.8 million award in damages to a six-year old boy who was paralyzed in a car accident. A court of appeals had previously remitted the trial court's award by 70%.
Child Paralyzed from Seatbelt
In Meals v. Ford Motor Company, the plaintiff, a 6 year-old boy, had suffered severe abdominal injuries and paralysis after a car accident. The young boy was riding in the back seat of a Ford Mercury and had been buckled, but the boy's father placed the shoulder strap behind the boy's back because it ran across the boy's face. While driving on the interstate, another driver, under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, ran head on into the Ford Mercury. Because the shoulder strap was behind the child, the child's body jackknifed over the lap belt, violently pushing the belt up into the child's abdomen causing severe abdominal injuries, a collapsed lung, loss of a portion of his small intestines, a brain injury, a cracked skull, and a dislocated spine leaving him permanently disabled from the waist down.
Trial Court Awards $43.8 Million
The child brought a suit against several parties including a products liability claim against Ford motor company, because of the faulty design of the safety belt. At trial, the jury ruled that the drunk driver was 70% at fault for the accident, the father 15% at fault for improperly belting the child, and Ford Motor company 15% at fault for the faulty design of the safety belt. The jury awarded damages in the amount of $43,800,000 of which Ford's share was $6,570,000.